<![CDATA[RWR Pilot Training - Dick Rochfort\'s Blog]]>Fri, 05 Jan 2018 16:03:51 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[A YouTube Question About Take-off Procedure in the PA46 Aircraft]]>Wed, 07 May 2014 16:26:42 GMThttp://rwrpilottraining.com/dick-rochforts-blog/a-youtube-question-about-take-off-procedure-in-the-pa46-aircraft
Paolo Bottura4 months ago  Hi Dick, I refer to your answer to peter's question about the sequence "flaps 10 deg-gear up-flaps 0 deg: in your opinion does it apply to any aircraft for short field take off or is it for the Mirage only.
Paolo - Italy


Hi Paolo,

So, with respect to gear retraction timing I would first like to restate the basics:

On a short field takeoff, the first part of the climb (1st segment) is about clearing the close-in obstacles. We need lift to do that, so we do not touch the flaps until clear of these inner obstacles. The legacy argument for raising the gear  (including the current POH for the PA46) suggests getting the gear up first, I suspect because the writer of the POH is concerned about the drag of the gear which produces no lift; good point, but consider this: firstly, when the gear is in motion (going up) drag actually increases a very slight amount. This is due to the main strut fairings which supplement the manual gear extension in the event of an hydraulic failure. Secondly pilots tend to loose focus on pitch attitude at this critical time and inadvertently relax back pressure on the control wheel, which can lead to a serious accident. For these reasons I suggest a slight delay before doing anything and simply focus on proper pitch attitude and airspeed. I also recommend a slightly different order than the POH. The order of events during clean-up is not critical if the pilot waits until the 1st segment climb is completed. I suspect that in any fixed wing aircraft 20 degrees of flaps will ordinarily produce more drag than the extended landing gear; also, in the PA46 there will be an aural alert for gear not extended if the gear is retracted prior to selecting 10 degrees of flaps. Since the obstacles are cleared at this point, by definition the first segment climb is completed. At this point I recommend lowering the nose to 8 1/2 degrees up, and bring flaps to 10 degrees; then retract the gear and raise the flaps to zero degrees. No need to wait for gear to finish before going to zero flaps unless you have hydraulic flaps.

All PA46 aircraft operate this way, however, in any other case I suspect some study of the aircraft POH and possibly some experimentation with gear and flap retraction at a safe altitude under the supervision of an experienced instructor could answer the question for other types of aircraft.

Fly Safely - Train Often

<![CDATA[Short Field Take Off Procedure for the PA46]]>Wed, 07 May 2014 15:50:23 GMThttp://rwrpilottraining.com/dick-rochforts-blog/short-field-take-off-procedure-for-the-pa46Picture

QUESTION – I know what the POH says, but is 2400 feet really enough runway for a Malibu, Mirage or Meridian?

ANSWER – I’m Glad You Asked!

The short answer to this question is yes, in many cases, but how can we know for sure? Clearly this is a density altitude related discussion and the full and complete answer lies in the performance section of your POH, so look there first.

Now, some of you may say, “I checked the POH and it says that the aircraft can do it, but I don’t trust this data since the aircraft is not new and I am not a test pilot”. So how can we be sure?

According to The Airman’s Information Manual (AIM), it is possible to judge your aircraft’s current performance by using the ½ runway rule. Now, this rule is provided for unimproved runways; however, we can apply it to improved runways as well. The ½ runway rule is stated in AIM 7-5-7 as follows:

When installed, runway half-way signs provide the pilot with a reference point to judge takeoff acceleration trends. Assuming that the runway length is appropriate for takeoff (considering runway condition and slope, elevation, aircraft weight, wind, and temperature), typical takeoff acceleration should allow the airplane to reach 70 percent of lift-off airspeed by the midpoint of the runway. The “rule of thumb” is that should airplane acceleration not allow the airspeed to reach this value by the midpoint, the takeoff should be aborted, as it may not be possible to liftoff in the remaining runway. Several points are important when considering using this “rule of thumb”:

a. Airspeed indicators in small airplanes are not required to be evaluated at speeds below stalling, and may not be usable at 70 percent of liftoff airspeed.

b. This “rule of thumb” is based on a uniform surface condition. Puddles, soft spots, areas of tall and/or wet grass, loose gravel, etc., may impede acceleration or even cause deceleration. Even if the airplane achieves 70 percent of liftoff airspeed by the midpoint, the condition of the remainder of the runway may not allow further acceleration. The entire length of the runway should be inspected prior to takeoff to ensure a usable surface.

c. This “rule of thumb” applies only to runway required for actual liftoff. In the event that obstacles affect the takeoff climb path, appropriate distance must be available after liftoff to accelerate to best angle of climb speed and to clear the obstacles. This will, in effect, require the airplane to accelerate to a higher speed by midpoint, particularly if the obstacles are close to the end of the runway. In addition, this technique does not take into account the effects of upslope or tailwinds on takeoff performance. These factors will also require greater acceleration than normal and, under some circumstances, prevent takeoff entirely.

d. Use of this “rule of thumb” does not alleviate the pilot’s responsibility to comply with applicable Federal Aviation Regulations, the limitations and performance data provided in the FAA approved Airplane Flight Manual (AFM), or, in the absence of an FAA approved AFM, other data provided by the aircraft manufacturer.

In addition to their use during takeoff, runway half-way signs offer the pilot increased awareness of his or her position along the runway during landing operations.

It is important that you know the midpoint of the runway. I get this information sometimes from the airport diagram by noting the position of intersecting taxiways. If there is no obvious way to get the midpoint, I taxi the full length of the runway counting the centerline stripes. I then taxi back downwind counting half of the stripes and note a landmark at the midpoint.

I complete a thorough run-up and a runway environment flow. I use 20 degrees of flaps instead of 10 degrees. I then taxi into position, hold the toe brakes, and set full power. I use the same “callouts” on the short field takeoff roll as I do on a runway of normal length and they are as follows:

Ø  Airspeed alive

Ø  Gauges green

Ø  Annunciator clear

Ø  60 knots – crosscheck (this callout should occur at or prior to the ½ way point; typically before the 1000 foot mark)

Ø  80 knots – rotate and pitch for 12 degrees nose up (Vx) (visually this is one dot above the 10 degree bar on the attitude indicator)

Ø  Positive rate and clear of obstacles - lower the nose to 8 degrees nose up (Vy)

Ø  Flaps up to 10 degrees

Ø  Gear up

Ø  Passing 100 knots - Flaps up (do not look away from the attitude indicator for more than a quick glance to ensure the pitch attitude remains positive and correct.

Ø  Trim for the deviation (flight director) bars

Ø  Autopilot on

Ø  Verify “D bars in the blue” and that the aircraft is performing as commanded.

I suggest that you practice this procedure before applying it to an actual short field departure and here is how you can do just that:

The next time you are departing from a runway with precision approach markings, take a close look at the runway distance markers. These markers are 500 feet apart. This means that the second set of markers (officially known as the aiming point, and affectionately known as the captain’s bars) is 1000 feet from the threshold.

Let’s say you want to know if you can depart from a 2000 foot runway. You can simulate taking off on a 2000 foot unobstructed runway by using the distance markers on any runway which is so equipped. According the ½ way rule, your Malibu, Mirage or Meridian aircraft should be at 60 knots (70% of your rotate speed) before reaching the captain’s bars on the takeoff roll. If the aircraft is not at 60 knots by this ½ way point, you should use the remaining 1000 feet to abort the takeoff.

Since many things can affect the performance of your aircraft, the ½ way rule may not work effectively if runway conditions are inconsistent, such as with snow and slush.


If you are concerned about landing performance, remember: Your Meridian aircraft is capable of landing on any surface from which it can safely takeoff, given the same conditions and proper technique.

I recommend that you consider noting the position of the aircraft at 60 knots on every takeoff. It will help you spot any deficiency which adversely affects aircraft performance and give you the confidence to safely operate your aircraft under a greater variety of conditions.
Fly Safely – Train Often


Dick Rochfort, ATP, CFII

Master Instructor





“I’m Glad You Asked” is a regular column written by Master Flight Instructor Dick Rochfort. Dick answers questions which come up frequently while conducting training in the Malibu, Mirage and Meridian aircraft. If you have a question for Dick, you can send it to him at mail@rwrpilottraining.com. He’ll be … “glad you asked”.

<![CDATA[May 05th, 2014]]>Mon, 05 May 2014 19:36:43 GMThttp://rwrpilottraining.com/dick-rochforts-blog/may-05th-20143This is an in-flight demonstration of the techniques and procedures for avoiding rain showers using the RDR2000 color weather radar with vertical profile in the Piper PA46 aircraft. It is posted elsewhere on YouTube and in my training library but it is getting a lot of views and positive comments, so here it is again. I hope you find it useful.
<![CDATA[Accident Review - Truckee, CA]]>Sun, 04 May 2014 20:18:21 GMThttp://rwrpilottraining.com/dick-rochforts-blog/accident-review-truckee-ca Accident Review

3 March 2014

Truckee, CA

By Dick Rochfort, ATP, CFII - Master Instructor

NTSB Identification: WPR14FA127
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, March 03, 2014 in Truckee, CA
Aircraft: PIPER PA 46 350P, registration: N9281F
Injuries: 1 Fatal,1 Serious.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On March 3, 2014, at 1032 Pacific Standard Time, a Piper PA 46 350P, N9281F, collided with terrain approximately 5 miles east of the Truckee-Tahoe Airport, Truckee, California. The commercial pilot was seriously injured, and the single passenger was fatally injured. The airplane was registered to, and operated by, the commercial pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 91. The airplane's left wing was separated from the fuselage resulting in substantial damage to the airframe. Marginal visual flight rules (MVFR) conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated on an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan. The flight originated at John Wayne-Orange County Airport, Santa Ana, California, about 0800.

The pilot was in communications with Oakland Center while on the GPS-A approach into Truckee-Tahoe Airport. Upon completion of the instrument approach the pilot executed a missed approach and proceeded to fly in an easterly direction not consistent with the published missed approach procedures. Oakland Center lost radar contact and radio communications with the airplane and pilot. The airplane wreckage was located about an hour later in the mountain range east of the airport at an elevation of 8,000 feet mean sea level (msl).

The Truckee-Tahoe Airport Automated Weather Observation System (AWOS-3) reported at 0950 that the wind was from 180 degrees at 7 knots; visibility was 9 statute miles, and an overcast cloud layer was at 3,000 feet above ground level (agl). At 1050, the reported weather conditions were wind from 300 degrees at 5 knots; 6 miles visibility in light rain, and an overcast cloud layer at 2,200 feet agl.

The published minimum descent altitude (MDA) for the Truckee-Tahoe GPS-A approach is 8,200 feet mean sea level (2,300 feet agl).

Talking Points:

This accident will likely be officially labeled “pilot error” - Controlled Flight into Terrain (CFIT). It is not possible to know at this point, exactly what happened on the morning of March 3, 2014 and I do not wish to criticize the pilot no matter how egregious his errors (if any) may have been. I want to focus on common causal factors for this type of accident and give you, the reader, a few "take-away" ideas that you might readily implement to make yourself a better, safer, more confident pilot.

There are two aspects to every procedure no matter how simple or complicated it may seem. First, the pilot must constantly be aware of the aircrafts position at all times. This task should be simpler in the glass panel cockpit but there is evidence which suggests otherwise. Second, the pilot must know the one best way to make the aircraft go where it is supposed to go with or without the autopilot. It could be said that this second aspect is the bandwidth hog, but the truth is, both can chew up significant bandwidth creating a ripe environment for errors of omission.

Bandwidth management is the ability to not allow distractions to interfere with timely critical task completion. This is not a problem to be solved, it is a condition to be managed. I encourage each pilot to seek the one best way to accomplish these tasks by operating the same way each and every time using a well-vetted set of checklists, flows, memory items and SOP (standard operating experience).

PictureFigure 1
The red line represents the Flight Aware radar track superimposed over the GPS-A at Truckee Airport (figure 1). As of this writing, we don’t know what clearance was received and the track is only an approximation, but it suggests that a non-standard procedure turn was flown and that the missed approach was not flown in a timely manner or in the correct direction.

Staying on the thick black line of the procedure is arguably the most important critical task. One common error which can cause confusion which can lead to this type of accident is a failure of the GPS to automatically sequence during the approach. This subtle but entirely predictable event can lead to a major loss of SA (situational awareness) and/or a serious distraction.

PictureFigure 2
There are a variety of reason why Garmin will not sequence when expected and the logic of this behavior is consistent throughout the GPS Navigator community. The give-away is the green “SUSP” above the OBS button (fig-2). “SUSP” (suspend in Garminology) means that sequencing will not occur; therefore tapping the button will initiate a manual sequence. The remedy is to keep vigilance for the occurrence of a failure to sequence and to simply tap the OBS button to remove the “Suspend” feature or to reactivate the correct leg of the approach using the time honored “direct-direct-enter” sequence. If Garmin sees the aircraft in the correct location, auto sequencing will resume. Note that the current aircraft location in this case (fig–2) is over IPODY, 5 miles outside of MARDR. It is easy to get busy, get distracted and miss the “SUSP” annunciator at this point because IPODY is the final approach fix and typically gear and flaps are introduced here with a power reduction and possible a desire to talk on the radio.

Note also the importance of having cumulative distance (CUM as opposed to DIS) displayed on the flight plan page so there is no confusion about total distance from a particular fix.

PictureFigure 3
While it is well understood that too much information can be a bad thing, it is also true that not enough information can be worse. Note that the map page in Fig 3 shows the aircraft 5 ¼ miles PAST MARDR. MARDR is the Missed Approach point. The best way to keep situational aware is to use the #1 navigator in Map mode (fig-3) and the #2 navigator on the flight plan page with a ‘CUM” distance displayed. Both units should be set to auto cross-fill to ensure that both units are giving proper information.

PictureFigure 4
The Flight plan page in figure 4 is very misleading if the pilot is not trained to “see” the subtle hint: Garmin is not sequencing. The aircraft in this simulation is significantly past the missed approach point.  

The best way to consistently get it right is to use a “Flow”. By definition a flow is a series of actions which must be considered by the pilot; not a checklist of tasks to be completed. The flow must be well vetted so as to be appropriate in every approach scenario. I recommend a six step flow followed by three questions:

1 – Activate (the approach correctly on Garmin) There are essentially three ways to accomplish this, depending on the circumstances.

2 - Flip – the correct VOR/LOC frequency into the active frequency box on both VHF Nav           radios (obviously not necessary on and RNAV or GPS approach except for crossing radials and backup information)

3 - Flop – verify that the CDI (course deviation indicator) is set to the proper source (VLOC or GPS as needed)

4 - Set – the course on the HSI or verify it is set if you have an EHSI (electronic horizontal situation indicator)

5 – ID  - identify the approach using the briefing strip on the approach plate and the blue banner on the Garmin navigator

6 – Arm the approach on the autopilot

Then immediately ask yourself three questions:

Which way? - Which way should I be going and is the autopilot making the aircraft go where I want it to go

How low? - What altitude should I be at and is the autopilot correctly configured to make that happen

What’s next? How long until the next step-down, turn or decision point.

Resist the temptation to simply recite what you expect to happen. The answer to the three questions lies on the panel in the approach setup. Look at the relevant information on the panel to confirm everything is set correctly. Study this procedure in training until you have a setup that will instantly answer these questions in every scenario with little or no button pushing. The expected outcome can only consistently occur if you insist on the procedural discipline to operate the same way each and every time. You can view a two minute YouTube demonstration video on this topic on my YouTube Channel at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=S-Mgqcl_9VQ

This video is also hosted on my website at www.rwrpilottraining.com in the Pilot Reference Library under IFR Operations.

PictureFigure 5
Figure 5 illustrates the guidance provided by Garmin after the OBS button is tapped to remove the SUSP annunciator.

Knowing the location of a proper VDP (visual descent point) will definitely help you find the runway or know in a timely fashion when a circle or a missed approach is likely. I compute the VDP using a ratio of 300 ft. per NM; that is, for every 300 feet I am above the threshold I know I will need 1 mile to effect a normal 3 degree descent (Pythagoras knew that and he wasn’t even a pilot!). As an example; many non-precision approaches bring us to 600 ft. AGL. An MDH of 600 ft. tells me that if I don’t see the runway from 2 miles away, I may be in for a circle or a missed approach. This very concept renders a straight-in 1 mile visibility minimum useless is most cases.

The Truckee-Tahoe GPS-A approach requires a rate of over 1000 feet per NM to get to the MDA (Minimum descent altitude) by the VDP. This rate of descent is not recommended; and that there is no published straight-in minimums is a huge hint. You should be looking for the runway at the VDP, not the MDA or the MAP. Looking for the runway in front of you when you get to MDA is probably a bad idea in this case because it’s most likely underneath the aircraft.

Since pilots are all human, we can only do one thing at a time. Excellent pilots do exactly the right thing at the right time and in the correct sequence utilizing the least amount of bandwidth. Experience makes this easier, but this is only true when you have had excellent experience. Excellent experience is derived from excellent training. This compelling concept is most important to the pilots who fly the least; so if you are flying less than 200 hours a year, get busy.

Consider training twice per year and ask your instructor to help you construct a set of checklists, flows and memory items which will guide you through each phase of flight, including the approach. Use these items ... same way each and every time. Have and use well-vetted Standard Operating Procedures. It is within the SOP that you will find a fast and accurate way to improve upon your aeronautical decision making (ADM).

“Do the same thing the same way, to a high professional standard every time. Set your standard, stick with it, don’t violate it and let no outside pressure change it. Discipline is going to keep you alive.” (Fred Kaiser, FAASTeam Program Manager).

Good pilots are not thrill seeking risk takers. Good pilots are well trained risk managers who endeavor to possess ATP level skills and knowledge. Always strive to improve your risk management capabilities by insisting on excellent training. Excellent training does not cost any more or take any longer and excellent training can help prevent accidents. Change is difficult, but when you commit to this process you will become a safer, more confident pilot. You owe it to yourself, your family, and the entire General Aviation community.

If you are flying any PA46 you should consider yourself lucky. In my opinion, for the money, it is the most capable GA aircraft available today. It is an excellent value and it is getting better every year.

If you would like more information on this or other strategies for improving the safety of your flying, or if you have comments or questions, you may contact me directly at mail@rwrpilottraining.com

Additional information on this and other important topics is available at the PA46 Pilot Reference Library at: http://www.rwrpilottraining.com

This article is available for reprint upon request.

Fly Safely – Train Often

<![CDATA[May 04th, 2014]]>Sun, 04 May 2014 15:25:03 GMThttp://rwrpilottraining.com/dick-rochforts-blog/may-04th-2014About the Author
Dick Rochfort is a full-time Master Certified Flight Instructor providing type-specific, insurance-approved initial, recurrent and instructor standardization training, buyer consulting, aircraft relocation and expert witness services to Piper PA46 (Matrix, Malibu, Mirage, and Meridian) owners, pilots and instructors worldwide.

He holds ATP, Commercial and Gold Seal Flight Instructor Certificates with CFII, MEI, CE-525S and SES ratings.  He has been actively involved in flight training as an instructor since 1992.

Dick is an Aviation Safety Counselor for the FAA Baltimore Flight Standards District Office, a National Industry Member of the FAA Safety Team (FAAST) and a member of the FAA Wings Industry Advisory Committee. His training program is FITS (FAA Industry Training Standards) approved and FAA Wings approved and fully insured. He has held the National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI) Master CFI designation for over 10 years and he is Director Emeritus of the Malibu Mirage Owners and Pilots Association (MMOPA).

Prior to his work with Piper PA46 aircraft pilots and owners, Dick was a primary flight instructor and corporate pilot. He served as a “Green Beret” Staff Sergeant E6 in the US Army Special Forces from 1970 until 1976 as an “A team” radio operator, training indigenous personnel in field radio communications.  He worked from 1976 until 1991 as an industrial engineer training manufacturing personnel for the production of communication and navigation equipment for the US military.

His education includes undergraduate degrees in Clinical Psychology and Engineering, and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration.  Dick lives in Baltimore, Maryland with his wife and has two daughters.  He is a PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) Certified Scuba Diving Instructor, a DAN (Divers Alert Network) First Aid Instructor and an Eagle Scout.